Review by Paul Quinton
Release date: 28 July 2014
Live – Inside, Outside is a 3-disc package, made up of two DVDs, and one audio CD, from UK melodic prog band Touchstone. Most of the live footage, including the CD was filmed and recorded at The Robin in October 2013, when the band were on a joint headlining tour with The Von Hertzen Brothers, whereas the 2nd DVD includes the whole of the band’s set at the first High Voltage Festival in London in 2010, where they opened the Prog Stage on the first day, plus a 20-minute documentary on the making of the band’s last album.
Having been at The Robin for the DVD shoot, as described in the piece I did for Midlands Rocks at the time, my feeling was that the band had some technical difficulties on the night, which resulted in them having to cut the set slightly. Whether this was behind them featuring their latest album, Oceans Of Time, so heavily in their hour long set isn’t clear, but it seems strange that for your first ever live DVD you concentrate so heavily on one album, as excluding the intro music, eight of the ten tracks are from Oceans of Time, although being fair, most of the fan favourites were included on the double live package Live In The USA released in 2011. Nevertheless, this is a very nicely put together package for Touchstone fans or anyone who wants to investigate the band further. It’s well filmed under the direction of Magenta’s Rob Reed, and sounds excellent. The same goes for the CD, where Rob Reed again has done a really good job on the soundtrack.
The High Voltage show on the other hand was filmed and produced by the organisers of the Festival, with far more resources than were available to Touchstone and Rob Reed, and various CDs and DVDs have been released by a number of other acts on the bill, so there’s no point whatsoever in picking over the differences in production values between the two DVDs. Nonetheless, again, it’s a nice souvenir of what was a fine day’s music, although, strangely, while the guest appearance of John Mitchell of It Bites is mentioned on the sleeve, the actual track he plays on, the band’s cover of ‘Mad World’ isn’t credited. As for the documentary, ‘The Making Of Oceans Of Time, it’s entertaining in itself, although I don’t really think it would stand up to repeated viewing.
Performance wise, and it’s quite understandable if this was down to the problems the band experienced on the night, the Robin show really isn’t Touchstone at their best, although if you compare the two performances, on the DVDs you can see how much the band has grown, both in terms of confidence and the added tightness three years of road work has given them. While I still have reservations about how Rob Cottingham appears to have taken a comparative back seat compared to his previous prominence in the band’s performances, tracks like ‘Flux’ show a band that are much tighter and with a clear vision and sense of direction. The only other reservation is that while Kim Seviour has undoubtedly matured as a singer, her voice now being much fuller and more expressive than in her early days in the band, she’s still not the most natural of stage performers and her between-song chat sometimes sounds a little wooden and lacking in spontaneity. One gag about the audience now all being stars because they’re on a DVD, and that she’d be asking for their autographs afterwards, isn’t a bad line in itself, but here it dies a death.
If you were one of the first 500 to order the package from the band’s website, there was a bonus CD thrown in, the Oceans EP. This has 5 extra tracks, including two demos from Oceans of Time and the edit of the album’s single, ‘Flux’, while the only new track is ‘Suffer the Children’, a track left over from the ‘Flux’ recording sessions. I’m afraid it’s not the band’s finest hour and I can easily see why it didn’t fit on the album. It’s a ballad, and while the lyrics are clearly sincere, it’s very sentimental, verging on the mawkish. The EP is really only for completists, although Adam Hodgson’s demo for ‘Contact,’ stripped down to keys and drum machine, is genuinely fascinating, with a very atmospheric, almost ambient feel, and even as an instrumental demo, stands up as a piece of music in its own right.
Touchstone have put together a decent package with the material they had available, and although I don’t think it shows the band in their very best light, it’s well worth owning if you’re a fan or even if you want to find out more about this band.
7.5 out of 10
Audio CD/Live at The Robin DVD Tracks
- Spirit Of The Age
- Shadows End
- Through The Night
- Oceans Of Time
- Strange Days
High Voltage 2010 DVD
- Joker In The Pack
- Strange Days
- Mad World